West and Northwest Tour
Shannon Airport to Londonderry City
Distance – 608km
Recommended duration – 3 Days
- By car
|1||Shannon Airport to Cong||203km|
|2||Cong to Sligo||257km|
|3||Bundoran to Londonderry City||148km|
Day 1 – Shannon Airport to Cong
From Shannon Airport set out on the road to Limerick, and visit the world famous Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. Then turn back to the vibrant town of Ennis, which develop around the medieval Franciscan friary whose ruins still stand in the town centre.
- Take the N85 for Ennistymon and then follow the incomparable coast road. It passes the stupendous Cliffs of Moher and then enters the fantastic land of the Burren National Park, an expanse of bare grey limestone – brightened everywhere by patches of wild flowers, all beautiful and some extremely rare. At Ballyvaughan, take a short diversion to the south to see – and maybe have a light meal – at the Aillwee Caves.
- Drive on around the head of Galway Bay to the city of Galway, where traditional Ireland lies side by side with a bright and bustling modern university town. Then head for Cong, the location of the immortal film The Quiet Man and spend a night in luxury at Ashford Castle.
Day 2 – Cong - Sligo
- This route takes you through some of the most beautiful and most remote regions of Ireland, past lakes great and small and through magnificent hills and valleys. Go west from Cong to see the Killary and the Aasleagh waterfall – where they filmed The Field – and so to the seaside at Westport and the stately home of Westport house.
- Take the N59 amongst barren peat bog and lofty mountains to the cliff-girt cost of Mayo and visit the Céide Fields centre, for light refreshments and to see how people lived there 5,000 years ago. Take a detour in the tiny village of Ballycastle down to the coast to visit Downpatrick Head - dramatic cliffs with plunging blow holes overlooking the waves crashing over Dun Briste. If you're lucky you may also get to see a passing whale or school of dolphins. Move onto Killala on the coastal road taking in the beautiful, wide deserted sandy beaches of Lacken and look out for the Ogham Stone before rejoining the main Killala road at Palmerstown Bridge.
- Through Killala, where the French army landed in 1798 and is still home to a perfectly preserved round tower and onto the market town of Ballina before moving onto Inniscrone, where you may regain youthful vigour in a seaweed bath.
- Stop off in Sligo Town, great for shopping and the gateway to the region immortalised by the poetry and paintings of W B Yeats and his brother Jack. Maybe take a tour to Drumcliffe Church to visit Yeats' grave in the shadow of the majestic Benbulben.
- Move on into Co. Donegal and spend the night close to the sea at Bundoran and wrestle with the problem of choosing which of their fabulous restaurants to select for an evening meal.
Day 3 – Bundoran - Londonderry City
- A lovely coast road goes north for Donegal town – and a possibility of a diversion of 115 km (70 miles) through stunning scenery to Glencolumbkille. Be sure to buy some Irish homespun tweed at the world-famous Magee’s in Donegal.
- Consider taking a spin off into Glenveagh National Park, 10,000 hectares of lakes and glens surrounded by Derryveagh mountains. Home to red deer, golden eagles, a castle, gardens, visitor centre and nature trails.
Go north on the N15 through the Blue Stack Mountains to the busy, bustling town of Letterkenny. Then head for Londonderry, diverting up the mountain to the iron age fort, the Grianan of Ailech for an incomparable view over mountains and sea loughs. And so down the hill to steep yourself in history, ancient and modern, in the city of Londonderry.